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North America

September 30, 2013

Plane Fascinating: The Boeing Factory Tour

A Boeing 777 sits on the assembly line. Boeing Future of Flight Tour

Planes have always fascinated me – mostly because I expect them to fall out of the sky. So, when I had a chance to visit the Boeing Factory Tour and the Future of Flight exhibit at the Boeing factory in Mukiteo, Washington, I was excited. Finally, I thought, I’ll be able to better understand how a metal box, that can weigh over half a million pounds at take-off, can fly.

While the Boeing Factory tour may not have given me complete insight into the black magic that is powered flight, I did come away with a better understanding of how planes are built and designed.

The tour starts in the Future of Flight visitor’s center. After a brief video explaining the history of the company and the facility, visitors are loaded onto buses for the short trip over to the factory.

Housed in the world’s largest building by volume, Boeing’s Everette Factory produces their wide-body jets (the 747,767, 777, and 787), which includes Boeing’s newest jet, the Dreamliner. The facility completes about 50 planes a month for customers all over the world. In the facility, most planes are built from the ground-up and every plane takes its maiden flight from the facility’s runway.

The outside of Boeing' Everett Factory, the largest building in the world by volume.

The outside of Boeing’s Everett Factory, the largest building in the world by volume.

Boeing Factory tours utilize underground tunnels and overhead viewing platforms, keeping visitors safely away from the assembly line, but close enough to easily observe the construction. Along the factory floor below sits planes in various states of construction; some planes are nearly completed, while others sit in large pieces waiting to be put together.

Seeing planes in various stages of production was really fascinating for me. I was also surprised to learn that, while robots are used for the heaving lifting, each plane is assembled almost entirely by humans.

For anyone whose ever taken something apart to see how it works, this part of the tour is really fascinating. It’s a bit odd to see a plane in pieces, waiting to be put together, but seeing how they’re constructed is definitely worth the visit.

On the 90-minute tour, you visit two different viewing platforms: each providing a different look at the assembly lines. The construction process for each plane model is a bit different, and visiting the two areas allows you to easily compare and contrast how each plane is built.

Two 787-Dreamliners being assembled on the factory floor.

Three 787-Dreamliners being assembled on the factory floor.

While I loved the inside of the building, the part I found the most fascinating was the facility’s tarmac. Lined up along the runway were dozens of planes awaiting pick-up; each painted at the Boeing facility with their airline’s colors and symbols. It was pretty cool to see all the new planes sitting side by side.

Back in the visitor’s center is the Future of Flight exhibit. Featuring displays of various plane components, including a real cockpit, the exhibit is worth seeing after the tour, but isn’t worth the trip on its own.

Sitting in a Boeing cockpit in the Future of Flight exhibit - Boeing Factory Tour

Sitting in a real Boeing cockpit in the Future of Flight exhibit.

It’s also worth checking out the facility’s observation deck. It provides a great overlook of the airport, and the planes sitting on the tarmac. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see a few planes take off or land.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Boeing factory tour and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest. As the only public tour of a jet assembly factory in North America, the Boeing Factory Tour is definitely worth visiting for its uniqueness.

For more information on the Boeing Factory Tour and the Future of Flight Aviation Center, or to reserve space on a tour, visit the Future of Flight website.

My visit to the Boeing Factory Tour was hosted by Boeing. As always, all opinions are my own, and Boeing had no say over the content of this post. Some pictures used courtesy of Boeing Future of Flight.


  1. A

    Wow that is incredible I had no idea you could do a tour of the Boeing facility. I’m a bit of a airplane / aerospace nerd so this would be amazing for me!

    • It’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a plane nerd. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s quite difficult and time consuming to reach by public transit. Having a car would be much better.

  2. Jim, I also visited the Boeing factory about 2 1/2 years ago and I definitely agree with your comments! I really enjoyed the tour and it was amazing to see the sheer scale of the various production lines.

    I am an aeronautical engineer by background so already have a good understanding of aircraft but it is still a great experience to see how they are constructed. I have since seen two other aircraft production lines (not accessible to the public) and it is really interesting how the approach you have seen at Boeing (separate major section workup areas (wings, forward fuselage, main fuselage (1 or more sections depending on the size of the aircraft), tail section), with the main production line being the aggregation of the 3-6 major sections and engines.

    I am not sure if you are aware that every individual aircraft is in reality over 2 years in the making (prior to the actual 3-6 weeks on the main production line) as the initial orders for all of the materials and major components is commenced that far out as it just takes that long to order and make everything required!

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